4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the category “San Francisco”

Back to the Bay (by Carmen)

The glorious Dolores Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon in San Francisco

The glorious Dolores Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon in San Francisco

Ok, we are a bit behind. And by a bit, I mean a lot. We’re steering away from the trip tips and cost analysis for now to focus back on what we love most: travel stories and food photography. To kick things off I’m going to write about a trip way back in April, shortly after returning from our gastronomical adventures in China. It was a journey that included hyperactive bhangra dancing, hiking, beers, pottery painting, jello shots and non-jello shots, custom made t-shirts, wine and a veiled crown with inappropriate ornaments. Yes, it was our bachelor and bachelorette parties! I can’t reveal any specifics but I was so happy to be surrounded by wonderful friends to celebrate bachelorette-hood. As it happens most of these friends live in the city by the bay, San Francisco.

Manish slaving away at the stove

Manish slaving away at the stove

A wonderful and welcoming vegan meal

A wonderful and welcoming vegan meal

Manish welcomed us back from our round the world journey with open arms and a very tasty meal at his apartment in North Beach. While we regaled him with tales of travels far and wide, he graciously cooked us up a vegan meal of green beans, lentils, rice and stuffed flatbreads – just like his momma taught him (quick shout out to her homemade handvo!). We talked, shared a couple growlers and joined friends in what was a great first night in the city.

Pizza and wine at Preston Winery in Sonoma

Pizza and wine at Preston Winery in Sonoma

Preston Winery tasting area

Preston Winery tasting area

The next day our friend Nalat whisked us away to be her guests at Preston Winery. It is one of the best wineries in the region but has a completely unpretentious atmosphere. You do not have to be a wine snob to enjoy their delicious reds, whites and roses in a classic farmhouse setting. On the day we visited they were serving up some pizza made with local ingredients. Let me tell ya, they take local seriously around here. As in they grew their own wheat on the estate that they then milled into flour for the pizza dough which was baked it in their wood-fired oven. It’s hard to beat that.

Joe’s Sliders

Joe’s Sliders

Over the next week we transitioned from friends in SF to our lovely hosts Kristen and Mark in Berkeley. While we waited for them to return from work, Nathan and I stopped by one of our favorite Berkeley snack shops: Joes’ Sliders. This small cafe does excellent burgers in miniature. It’s such an easy concept, I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before. Sometimes you just want a bite of juicy patty or portobello cap with good quality cheddar, sauce, and sesame seeds bun. This way you get a taste without a full burger commitment.

Vine Street Wine Shop

Vine Street Wine Shop

The vast board of cheeses at Cheese Board

The vast board of cheeses at Cheese Board

While we were in Berkeley, we couldn’t resist a chance to have a final pot luck with our dinner party crew. We had posted about our previous dinner party which honored foods from the Bay Area. But this time we were all pressed for time, so we went with a three ingredient theme, inspired by the cooking show Chopped. To get supplies, we visited three of our fave Berkeley food shops that we dearly miss: Berkeley Bowl (the best grocery store in the world), the Cheese Board (a co-op that has no less than 5 types of feta in addition to pretty much any other type of cheese), and the Vine Street Wine Shop (all wines are well described and under $25…need I say more?).

3 ingredient dinner party

3 ingredient dinner party

My contribution to the three ingredient dinner party was 1) a dish of cantaloupe wrapped in sage in proscuitto and 2) ricotta mixed with herbs and olives on toast. Nathan created a salad of roasted carrots, arugula and avocado (a simplified version of this excellent recipe from Food & Wine). Add in a roast chicken, a cauliflower “risotto”, more greens and a cobbler and we were well fed and happy.

Dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge

Dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge

It was great to be back in the Bay Area yet China was still fresh in our memories. The noodles, and dumplings and tofu…oh yum. I never tire of it and wanted more. Fortunately, our friends were on the same page so six of us gathered round a table for dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge. Our table was soon laden with steamer baskets full of delectable treats on par with the dim sum we had recently enjoyed in HK.

In our visit to the Bay Area we were fortunate enough to spend time with many more people than I have mentioned here. For all those who hosted us, dined with us, drank with us and/or danced with us, we take a bit of you with us wherever we go. And by a bit, I mean a lot.

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A Dinner Party to Honor the Bay Area (by Nathan)

When we lived in Berkeley we cooked a lot of food.  We had friends that also cooked quite a bit.  It was natural for us to want to cook for each other, and thus the beginnings of frequent feasts.  One Saturday afternoon Nalat, Brenda, Carmen and I embarked on a long and strenuous hike in the Berkeley hills.  We did not expect to be so hungry, but after hours of no food we wanted to cook something.  That night we made a feast of fresh sushi, sashimi salad and onigiri.  Rubbing our bellies and sipping on sake we decided to begin the regular dinner party.

The potluck would be alternated between three apartments on a rotating theme chosen by one of the chefs.  For almost two years we would have a party every two to three weeks.  The themes ranged all types of cuisines, cooking methods and styles.  We cooked Chinese, Thai, Japanese (not sushi), French, Indian and we insisted on something stuffed, fermented, barbecued, lucky, vegan or using squash.  Some meals required drink pairings, another, a jug from Preston winery as the highlight, a few dinners featured homebrewed beer made by Brenda and Drew.  We even had a dinner inspired by the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water.  Each dinner was a highlight to our week, a highlight to our month and an experience bringing us closer as friends.

Our dinner party feast

So, when we returned to Berkeley for a few days, there was one thing on all of our minds: when is the dinner party? And more essentially, what would be the theme? Carmen and I chose the theme “Missing the Bay Area.”  The idea was to cook something that we could not live without from the Bay Area.  The general theme among all of us was the freshness of the ingredients.  The produce available here is unparalleled, farm to table is actually possible; I walked from talking to North Bay farmers at the market to the Brenda’s kitchen knowing exactly where my vegetables came from.

Battered squash blossoms over tomatoes and avocados

Humbolt Fog, honey and almonds

Highlighting the freshness of the ingredients, I made stuffed squash blossoms over early girl tomatoes and avocado.  I also picked up a slice of Humbolt Fog cheese that we smothered in sliced almonds and honey.  Carmen contributeda lemon, almond tea cake based on one from Tartine Bakery.

Rancho Gordo beans

Fig, raspberry and chocolate tart

Rancho Gordo beans are delicious, Brenda stewed a handful of ingredients together into a salty savory concoction deserving of seconds and thirds.  She also made a David Lebovits inspired fig and raspberry tart with Tcho chocolate drizzled over the top.

Nalat’s chapino

Oysters on the half shell

The abundance of seafood in San Francisco is amazing.  Nalat recreated a chapino that she loves from the North Beach neighborhood with mussels and crab legs.  We cracked open a few oysters and topped them with a mignonette.

Fig, prosciutto and arugula pizza

Drew put together a fig, prosciutto and arugula pizza and shared some of his hoarded Siduri wine.

We ate, we drank, and then we had a little more.  As always, the meal was a feast of delightful cuisines and treats.  We slept overly full, but dreamt hungrily of our next dinner party.

A Tourist in San Francisco (by Nathan)

Downtown SF and trolley car

Victorian buildings of San Francisco

San Francisco definitely has a charm to it.  The Victorian style homes sit shoulder-to-shoulder on rolling hillsides.  There are beautiful bridges and bounties of delicious food. Who could forget trolley cars, light rail and a commuter train- public transit for the local traveler.  To our benefit, Carmen and I were able to once again return to San Francisco, we visited some of our favorite eateries and sat in the sun enjoying the few moments of heat that we could get.

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco City Hall

A recommendation to any tourist in SF: bring a jacket, always.  So many believe that because San Francisco is in California that it will be warm, that there is actually a summer, but it is always cold.  I too forgot and I clung onto the one long sleeve and jacket that I brought for the two weeks.  A jacket is especially necessary if you are visiting San Francisco’s most spectacular piece of architecture, the Golden Gate Bridge.  It spans the mouth of land that confines the SF Bay closing off the enormous Pacific Ocean which means it is often covered in fog.  Another favorite architectural sight is the city hall sitting prominently with a magnificent dome.

Dolores Park and SF skyline

Bi-Rite Basil, Olive Oil and honey lavender ice cream

We did find time to lie in the park.  Dolores Park is large and filled with people that try to soak up the mid-afternoon warmth before the fog seeps in over the hills.  We read, people watched and turned away the magic truffle salesman.  The sweets we had in mind were: ice cream.  Bi-rite is at the far north-east corner of Delores Park.  A mile away is another glorious ice cream institution named Humphrey Slocomb.  We ate at both (on separate days).  There was basil and olive oil infused at Bi-rite and sesame seed and Szechuan strawberry sorbet at Humphrey Slocomb.

Dry fried chicken wings at San Tung

Xiao Long Bao at Kingdom of Dumplings

We spent a handful of days visiting consulate offices in San Francisco.  It is amazing how many Visas are needed to be secured before traveling for seven months.  China was definitely the most scrupulous, but to celebrate we ate Chinese, twice! We went to San Tung for best chicken wings and Kindom of dumpling for you guessed it: dumplings.

Mission Chinese hot and spicy everything

Cheung Hing barbecued meats

And then we ate more Chinese.  I didn’t realize it fully when we left the Bay Area, but many of our favorite places pulled the spicy, oily flavors of Asia right onto our doorstep.  Our first stop was Dol Ho that serves some awesome hole-in-the-wall dim sum.  Then Mission Chinese for fiery meats and vegetables.  One of our favorite Chinese barbecue places is called Cheung Hing; juicy meat hangs in the window and fried suckling pigs are wheeled out to families preparing for a party.

Chairman Bao food truck in SF sunset

We made time for street food.  San Francisco has a blossoming street food culture with delicious food trucks and mobile eateries.  One of the best things in the Bay Area in recent years is the advent of Off The Grid.  This organization has been organizing food truck circles and street markets all around the Bay Area.  Carmen and I would attend a 10 truck one in Berkeley on Wednesdays, but the mother of all events is the Friday scene in Fort Mason with almost forty trucks.  Our favorites were Chairmen Bao’s tofu steamed bun, Happy Dumpling, Azalina’s Malasian banana balls and copious amounts of Magnolia beer.

Phở roll at Rice, Paper Scissors

The next day we decided to get even more of the action at the annual Street Food Festival in the Mission neighborhood.  This conference and festival is fun because trucks and restaurants mix to provide a “small item,” “large item” and drink.  Our favorite was a mushroom phở roll at Rice, Paper Scissors.  From sambusas, bread pudding and pão de queijo; this event had it all.

A glorious Tartine Bakery assortment

One of the best places on this planet for baked goods is Tartine.  There is something wrong with how good everything is at this place.  We went a couple times, but our favorites are the bread pudding, croissant, and their country bread loaf.  We also had a toasted almond and pecorino sandwich that was so rich that we needed to take a nap afterwards.  One night we cooked with some friends and re-created their lemon almond tea cake, very easy to make and absolutely delicious.

Suppenküche spätzle

Another favorite is Suppenküche, a fabulous German restaurant to die for (and die by).  Their cheesy spätzle is one of our favorite dishes alongside one a German beer from their long list of taps.

Bay Area Friends

All that food was nothing in the enjoyment of seeing all of our wonderful Bay Area friends.  We stayed in multiple houses and apartments.  We camped, slept on floors, couches and air mattresses, but the real fun was spending time with some of the people that know us best.  There were long nights drinking, dinner parties cooking up feasts, and casual lunches, brunches and late night dinners.  We truly have a family of friends in San Francisco and they will surely be missed.

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